Today was Sell The New War day on the Sunday shows. Explosions on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were immediately met by charges from the United States that Iran was behind the attacks—and by the usual insistence by the most aggressive Republican voices that the United States respond via military force.
Selling the public on new military actions has long been one of the defining functions of the Sunday news shows; the urge to use the most powerful military on the planet on a regular, cathartic basis is almost uncontrollably titillating for press and power brokers alike. So here we go again.
In a Sunday morning interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., argued for retaliatory strikes on Iran.“These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike,” he told host Margaret Brennan.
“President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on the same program, even as he solemnly described a “right” to defend against attacks on “American interests.” (Both men asserted that the White House has the authority to take military action without consulting Congress.)
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, was not particularly combative on the point. Instead he told the program that “There’s no question that Iran’s behind the attacks” and that the evidence “very strong and compelling.” “But nonetheless, the problem is we are struggling, even in the midst of this strong evidence, to persuade our allies to join us in any kind of response.”
Yes, a habitual and possibly delusional liar in the White House does tend to dull international trust in the United States. As does the recent history of a U.S. administration making repeated false statements to the American and international public in order to justify a mind-bogglingly expensive and bloody war that gave birth a new regional terrorist movement.
It was Mike Pompeo who perhaps had the worst day of things. For starters, it has been clear for a very long time now that Pompeo, from his State Department perch, has little to no insight on Donald Trump’s diplomatic “thinking”, and even less ability to influence it, rendering the rest of his appearance a largely pointless exercise. But Pompeo also was tasked, on Fox News no less, with defending Trump’s assertion that he “probably would” accept foreign government assistance in the next presidential election, no matter what the actual law had to say about it.
So it was time to wind up the required performative snit. Pocket sand!
“Chris, President Trump believes [foreign interference in our elections is unacceptable] too. I have nothing further to add,” Pompeo said. “I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness, chased down the story that is inconsistent with what I’ve seen President Trump do every single day.”
Mike Pompeo, a man who simply reeks of trustworthiness as he insists that the sitting president in fact believes the precise opposite of what he was specifically recorded saying he believed. Why our nation’s longtime allies are expressing reluctance to trust administration proclamations on the apparent eve of a brand-new Middle Eastern war is truly a mystery.